- Personal Injury
“Nobody gets through life unscathed,” as they say. As we get older, this statement becomes truer and truer. Everybody suffers from injuries, illnesses, or other medical conditions at some point, so it’s natural to wonder if prior injuries or pre-existing conditions will affect your settlement after an accident.
The short answer is: Yes. If you had a pre-existing condition related to the injury you suffered in the accident, it can affect your settlement. However, it’s not as simple as saying that having a pre-existing condition will automatically result in a lower amount because sometimes the opposite is true.
The Legal Rules
The general rule is that a negligent person is responsible for all injuries that are caused by their wrongful actions. For example, suppose someone causes a traffic accident that results in someone else losing a limb. In that case, they are responsible for all the consequences of losing that limb—medical bills, emotional trauma, loss of work, etc.
However, the negligent person is not responsible for injuries the other person suffered before the accident. If the victim was already missing a limb, for example, obviously, the negligent driver is not responsible for it. Real-world examples are not always so clear, though.
Imagine you had a prior neck injury that caused you some mild chronic pain; after being injured in a car accident, your neck hurts much more and will require surgery. The negligent driver is not responsible for the effects of the prior injury. Still, they are responsible for any aggravation of the injury caused by the accident, such as the increased pain and the need for surgery.
In reality, someone with a pre-existing condition often recovers more in a settlement because they suffer an overall greater level of injury due to that condition.
How Pre-Existing Conditions Can Affect Your Case
Predictably, insurance companies will try to attribute all of your injuries to a pre-existing condition or prior injury so that they are not responsible for paying for them. They will therefore request access to your medical records, looking for any hint of a pre-existing condition.
If you have a pre-existing condition, there will be a battle over whether that means the defendant’s liability is reduced and, if so, by how much. This is a question that medical experts largely settle; you must seek treatment for all of your injuries so that your doctor has the full picture of the situation.
It’s also important to avoid hiding any such condition or injury from the opposing party, as this can be considered a misrepresentation that can wreck your entire case. When discussing your case with your attorney, tell them about anything relevant. On the other hand, you don’t have to hand over absolutely everything. If you don’t have a lawyer, insurance companies will often try to get you to sign a blanket waiver to access anything and everything from your medical history, regardless of whether it’s relevant, giving them more ammunition to work with.
Talk to a Personal Injury Expert
Having a pre-existing condition or prior injury does not ruin your case, by any means. However, it may create complications that will be difficult to sort out on your own, as they require legal and medical expertise to resolve.
Our personal injury legal experts know how to handle pre-existing conditions in a way that is maximally beneficial to you. We can create a plan for moving forward and getting the compensation you deserve. Contact our office to get started.